Followers of the Belgian football team can be forgiven for being in the doldrums recently. After qualifying for every World Cup from 1982 to 2002 – finishing fourth in 1986 – recent years have seen an alarming slump, during which they have failed to qualify for the last three major tournaments – and now the 2010 World Cup in South Africa also looks out of reach.
The Lobby has been watching Belgium on a regular basis since arriving in the country, sometimes taking the long metro ride to Heysel, occasionally driving to Genk in pouring rain on a Wednesday night for a meaningless friendly, and memorably taking the train to Liège where the match against Estonia clashed with the I Love Techno weekend in the city. Evidently, more people loved techno on that weekend than the Belgian national team.
But who is that knight in shining armour, approaching from the north, ready to reinstill some pride back into the Belgian football team? Why, it’s the Dutchman Dick Advocaat, former coach of the Netherlands and 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg! Advocaat has signed a contract to take over the Belgian team from 1 January 2010, and although no further information is forthcoming it seems likely that he will be in charge up to and possibly beyond the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine in 2012.
Advocaat is known as “the little general”, and there’s little doubt that the Belgian side could do with some military discipline if they are to recapture their glory years of the 1980s and early 1990s. With an abundance of rising stars coming through the Jupiler League, such as Steven Defour, Axel Witsel, and Eden Hazard, the future looks – if not bright – then slightly less bleak than it did a few months ago.
*If any expats (or Belgians, god forbid!) would like to join us on our regular trips to see Les Diables Rouges/Rode Duivels, please drop a line to The Lobby blogteam.